Timeout works, when you do it correctly

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m a single mom of a four-year-old son in pre-school. My son and another kid in his class are completely out of control. He wasn’t like this until the other boy showed up.

My son yells, punches, stomps, talks back, and rages when he doesn’t get his way.

Even though his dad behaved the same way, his dad’s now in another state. So he can’t be taking after him.

Timeout is what I use for discipline (so does his teacher). My son screams like I’m torturing him and I try to ignore him. It’s a nightmare to get him in his Timeout chair. I use a timer for four minutes, and praise and hug him when he’s done.

His doctor said he doesn’t have ADHD and just needs more positive attention. 

I’m thinking about putting him in another school so he won’t be able to feed off the other kid.


Distressed Mom

Dear Distressed,

You’re doing a great job using “Timeout.” Research has proven Timeout to be an excellent strategy to change negative behavior. However, most people don’t understand that Timeout is a teaching-learning discipline tool. It promotes positive behavior, but it’s not the complete behavioral solution.

It’s important to focus on the changes in your son’s disposition, not outside influences, with the help of a child counselor. It’s also an opportunity to explore what is behind his behaviors, not who is causing the changes.    

It could be myriad reasons, for example, missing his dad, being bullied, or academic struggles. 

Any attention feeds behavior. Timeout is a tool to stop all types of attention – negative, like screaming, stomping, making demands, and threats, or positive, such as parental explanations, rewards, and hugs.

Your Timeout guidance plan could be based on the following:

  1. Don’t overuse it (only once or twice a day).
  2. Explain the problem to your child.
  3. Tell him what positive behavior is required to replace the negative behavior.
  4. You’re the one in control – don’t negotiate. (This is imperative.)
  5. Reward him only after he follows your directions.
  6. Explain what his consequences will be if his undesirable behavior returns.
  7. Tell him he’s responsible for having a Timeout – he chooses his behavior.
  8. Don’t physically force or restrain him into Timeout; this reinforces negative and aggressive behavior. Enforce consequences consistently.

His constructive behavior changes may reward you with appropriate parental control (remember you’re not his friend – you’re his caring, loving parent) and you’ll establish a healthy and connected relationship.

Most of all, you’ll have a loving, respectful, and peaceful rapport.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri